Apologies for the lack of updates recently. I know you must have been tearing at your hair and gnashing your teeth with sheer boredom, and for your fortnight of torment, I beg your forgiveness. A combination of tech problems, writerly busy-ness and lovely weather have left me with mere slivers of free time, and every time I’ve looked at the blog and thought ‘Shall I?’ I’ve backed down like a wheelchaired grandmother wimping out of a river jump. I think part of the problem has been that I’ve got lots of ideas for involved, substantial posts, which will take ages and which I haven’t been able to face starting – then compared to their rich majesty, a little Youtube vid or ‘so, this is how my week has been’ update feels as a crude Crayola scrawl against the artistic fruits of history’s grandmasters.

In terms of writing, I’ve been mucking with stuff from my next book, getting it ready for some part of it to be looked at by another human being. Sitting down and writing prose is something of an odious experience for me, occasionally punctuated by satisfying – albeit brief – flurries of productivity. I like a lot of the parts of being a writer, except, for the most part, the actual writing. Hmm.

I’ve also been working on getting my poetry sets ready for Latitude festival at the end of this week. I reckon one in every five performance poems that I sit down and write ends up making it into my final set. And I don’t often write performance poems. This means if I want some new pieces, I have to commit to a pretty intense work schedule so I’ve got more chance of turning up one that works. It’s a little frustrating when you finish a poem, think ‘wowee this’ll be a banker’, then deliver it at your next gig to crickets. But, you know, I’d rather work hard than be rubbish. I’ve got a poem in the works at the moment which I hope, hope, hope will wind up becoming a solid part of my set, and I’m trying to get it finished for Latitude so it can have its debut there.

Um, I completed Mario Vs Donkey Kong and Mario Vs Donkey Kong 2: The March Of The Minis, the former on the GBA, the latter on the DS. A mon avis, Mario Vs Donkey Kong is brilliant – a fun-packed dose of classic platforming action that sees you, as Mario, pursuing Donkey Kong after he steals a sackful of clockwork Mario toys from the factory. The level design is superb, the gameplay tough but fair, and the difficulty level ranges from easy to fiendish – a rare and welcome concession to hardcore platformer fans who want a challenge they can really sink their teeth into.

Mario Vs Donkey Kong 2 is pants. The fun, intuitive platforming action of its predecessor has gone – in its place is a joyless Gyromite clone (you remember Gyromite, right? No? Exactly) mixed with the most tedious elements of Krusty’s Super Funhouse. Instead of getting to dash, backflip and ‘yahooo!’ as Mario, you must use the DS stylus to shunt little chittering Mini-Marios round small, dull levels. They move slowly, the stylus system is iffy, and the boss battles with DK are samey and bland. It’s like a rubbish version of Lemmings, and the failure is all the more painful when you remember how classy the previous title in the series was. It’s a rare swing-and-miss for the Mario franchise, and a sobering reminder that Nintendo’s much-lauded innovation has risen from a history of pig-in-a-poke goofs, from Gyromite‘s ROB to the it’s-so-bad Powerglove to the unwieldy Superscope to the nausea-inducing Virtualboy.

So, coming up I’m performing at Latitude festival in Suffolk on Thursday (9:10pm in the Literary Tent), Friday (6:00pm in the Poetry Arena), Saturday (11:30pm in the Poetry Arena) and Sunday (6:00pm in the Poetry Arena). I’ll also be part of Aisle16 and Friends every night in the Poetry Arena, 11:00pm Thursday and Sunday, 1:00am Friday and Saturday. I’m helping to compere the Poetry Arena too, so basically, busy weekend pour moi. The weekend after I’m at Camp Bestival on the Saturday, reading from We Can’t All Be Astronauts in the day, then doing a poetry set in the evening. On the Sunday, we’ll be at Port Eliot Literary Festival, where I’ll be performing with Joe Dunthorne and Ross Sutherland, doing our show about our attempts to infiltrate the enigmatic French experimental literature group the Oulipo – Found In Translation. Later that day I’ll be giving a reading from We Can’t All Be Astronauts. Then, weather-permitting, we are going to get plastered. The following weekend I’ll be at the Kendall Calling festival, doing some performance poetry, then after that… oh, you can just check out my schedule. Be really nice to see you if you’re about at any of those festivals. Come and say hi. Teach me a really elaborate handshake or something.

There. I think that’s all for now. I’ve managed to write about poetry and video games in the same post, thus alienating both halves of my audience at once. If you don’t feel excluded by one, you probably hate both. Well, that’s what this blog exists for. Taking the rival camps of people who like poetry and people who like video games, and bringing them close enough that they can glare at one another, stoking their mutual emnity and mistrust. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve just remembered that there’s a new episode of This American Life ready for me to listen to. See you at the festival!